August 7, 2011
7-27 August, 22:00
Fringe veterans Aisle 16 have come a long way since their tightly-scripted concept shows Powerpoint and Poetry Boyband visited Edinburgh in the mid-noughties. Now a loose collective of seven writer-performers, Aisle 16 R Kool features three of the troupe – Tim Clare, John Osborne and Luke Wright – in a rambunctious and entertaining fifty minutes of poems, banter and one song about farting. At the end of the show, we’re invited to vote for the coolest poet – a nice conceit that introduces a (faux) competitive element into the conventional performance poetry format.
Wright begins with an analysis of the show’s flyer, which depicts the trio in various ‘kool’ poses: Clare wields a guitar wearing a Dr Dre t-shirt, Osborne proffers a basketball, and Wright himself carries a skateboard and dons some wacky shades. For a moment, I’m worried this is going to sink into self-indulgent post-irony; there’s nothing worse than listening to cool people talking about how uncool they are. Happily, Wright’s opener is a tremendous poem about being stopped by the French Gendarmes (“cool”) for not carrying a high-viz jacket in his car (“not cool”). Where I occasionally find Wright’s high energy rhyming poetry formulaic, his salesman’s patter too slick, this poem impressed with its pointed satire, ambitious rhythms and clever use of pidgin French.
Osborne brings a different tone to proceedings. With the air of a rambling but charming stoner, his poems are unrhymed and verge on storytelling. His best piece recounts an apparently “ironic” stag party trip to Hooter’s, during which an exhausted waitress confides in him about her back-to-back shifts. This is a poem about becoming the person you hate, and it’s a relief to reach a tender note amidst the more boisterous performances of Wright and Clare.
Much of the material, admits Wright, has been ‘shoehorned’ into a show about being cool. But Clare has a decent stab at engaging with the theme. The most impressive performer of the night, a dishevelled, unhinged Louis Theroux, Clare’s poems combine the intellectual (Freud) with the puerile (plenty of bum jokes). He rails against hipsters – while wearing a lumberjack shirt – and steals the show with a grotesque cameo in Wright’s poem about Kate Moss.
All performers are attention seekers. And poets are the worst of the lot. During ‘Pub Stuntman’, a roll-call of laddish pub dares, Clare downs a pint of Guinness before confessing, in a moment of comic sincerity:
“every time I lit a fart I meant to send a rescue flare”
In an entertaining show that kept me smiling throughout, my vote went to Tim.
Tom Chivers is producing Kalagora at Zoo Roxy.
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